I don’t think you can find a single senior fisherman in our country, from north to south, who isn’t incredulous about the rise of sea cucumber to a state where people are fighting over it, smuggling it, talking about it as a potential million-dollar industry.
There’s this story about this man in the jungle in Africa who walked away from his house to go seek his fortune, and later someone came and pushed down his abode, and found a diamond so grand it could buy a mansion. You know we have to give it to the Europeans for talking up the worth of that shiny stone. A lot of what they are comes from their acts of genocide, but they have some good points, one of which is that they know how to sell a story. Diamonds have industrial worth, but its big game is that every worthy man must buy one for his prospective, for engagement, and one for the subsequent wedding. While the fathers of our girls were after cows, those bohgaz were talking up that shiny stone until it could buy a ranch.
Ah, my mom said that when she was a girl, nobody had any respect for lobster. She said you could pick them up off the reef, like conch, in two feet of water. She said, yes, her dad used them to catch the prized barracudas. Ah, they were common in Belize then, and cheap, but in other places they were already gold. Thank God my maternal aunt, Mae Belisle, later Mae Belisle Castillo, was well brought up, and didn’t care a whit about lobster, or she might have embarrassed the country, instead of putting those daam uppity Americans in their place.
Remember that the US was a British colony, just like us, so we’ve never been strangers. Hart Tillett has the whole story about how white Americans ran to Belize after their local wars. You can also find an excellent discussion of these white Americans who came here in Bismarck Ranguy Sr.’s books too.
There was a great exodus of Belizeans to the States after 1961, but we’ve been in and out of there, because of the British connection. I’ve seen ship manifests with Lindos, the white side of my mom’s family, traveling to the US. I think the manifests were after the ’31 hurricane. Thank God, in all the manifests I saw, the Lindos were listed as black.
It could have been a Belisle, they were in and out of the US too, but I think it was the Lindo side that got my aunt a job as a maid in a well-off US home, and that American family had lobster for lunch one day, and they wanted it all for white mouths, or so it appeared to my aunt, who told them fu stop fret bikaaz weh she come from, fu she pa yooz dehn deh fu bait.
These daam sea cucumbers…The young brown ones could be mistaken for something agh, because just about the only time anyone observed them was when they were around the private hut overhanging the sea. They, naturally, could have gotten an ugly name, because of what they looked like, but some kindly soul had observed that their shape could also allow them to pass for an engorged male procreative part, and thus it got the taboo name, sea kak, instead of, something very unpleasant.
So, our fisherfolk now have big interest…it has now become a product, so much so that it was elevated to a discussion in the House of Representatives…gosh daam, our honorable House discussing sea kak…yep, there was a challenge from Sister Tracy, that the government side ensures that the industry is run right, and a response from Brother Blue Economy, that if anything is shady it occurred under the other side, and they are about making sure we keep our dignity, with the management of it.
I know what you’re thinking, and I’m thinking the same thing too, that it is these Chinese and some of their dratid weird eating habits. The Orientals know how to cook fish, meat and vegetables, and none of our people should feel ashamed. It’s all part of growing up. But we’ll never match or surpass them if they keep hiding, keep keeping some seasonings secret.
I can feel the desperation of some bested cook who started the ludicrous rumor that the Oriental secret was all monosodium glutamate…If that was a ploy, to force them to revelation, it didn’t work, and if it was a dirty scheme to turn us off Oriental food, it fell flat.
We were talking about weird eating habits, and your bet is my bet, so…. Ouch, the first story that came up on the Google is…”Sea cucumbers are being eaten to death to feed Chinese”. The National Geographic (NG) report describes sea cucumber as a delicacy for you-know-who, and says soaring demand has led to high prices. The report says they “have fallen victim to a contagion of poaching that has spread, causing devastating declines, to most coastlines on Earth.”
Looking at the biology, the report says they range from about an inch to 3 feet long, and since the 1300s it has been known as “ginseng of the sea.” Yes, your guess was as good as mine. You see why the Chinese are more than 1.4 billion. Getting rich is not all that occupies their busy minds. Really, if the proof of the pudding is in the eating, if results are what count, then that is all that the Chinese think about. Guilty!
Aqua Views, at the website leisurepro.com, says sea cucumbers account “for as much as 90 percent of the biomass in marine environments at depths of 5.5 miles and deeper”, and they are “one of the ocean’s most prolific species.” Aqua Views says they “are part of the recycling process that occurs in the ocean, processing detritus and decaying organic matter into smaller particles that will continue down the line to be further degraded by bacteria.” I bet it isn’t from there that their ginseng qualities come.
From The National Wildlife Federation we learn that some species actually grow up to six feet, that they exhibit sexual and asexual reproduction, that “females release eggs into the water that are fertilized when they come into contact with sperm that males have released”, and that they “can live for 5 to 10 years.”
Faiya, sea kak has its own season now. On May 8, 2020, our Fisheries Department announced to “fisherfolk with a valid fishing license that the sea cucumber fishery will be open for fishing from May 11 to June 30, 2020 or when the catch quota is realized, whichever is first.” Among a number of other restrictions, fisherfolk were told they could only harvest in areas where they were licensed to fish, and that the sea cucumbers harvested had to be 10 inches or longer and weigh not less than 7 ounces, and had to be delivered to a designated Fishing Cooperative or Fein Catch Ltd.
In the research paper, “The 2009–2016 Belize sea cucumber fishery: Resource use patterns, management strategies and socioeconomic impacts,” which was completed in 2018 by four scientists, including Arlenie Perez-Rogers from our University of Belize, we are told that sea cucumbers have been harvested in our waters for about 20 years, that the trade went through Guatemala (bah, why are they always ahead of us? Remember xate?) or through Asian Belizeans here. It wasn’t until 2009 that our authorities got in on the game.
The paper says that by 2016 one of the two main species here was overfished, and the entire fishery was shut down in 2017. Wow, the paper says sea cucumber harvesting increased fishers’ income to “5 times the minimum wage in 2016, concurrent with a drastic decline of stocks.” According to the report, “fishers were concerned about the decrease in catch that forced them to fish in deeper waters, and about the illegal fishing by Guatemalan and Honduran fishers in Belizean waters.”
My gudnis, that low-life is on the way to being reported by our SIB alongside conch, shrimp, lobster, and fish fillet! Hn, the stone the fishers thought looked like…blank, has become precious gold.